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September 26, 2008

Key bailout player faces trouble at home

Most of the leading Congressional negotiators in the Wall Street bailout plan don’t have to worry too much about their own political prospects – at least not right away. House Financial Services Committee Chairman Barney Frank hasn’t faced a Republican opponent since 2000.

And the committee’s ranking Republican, Rep. Spencer Bachus (R-Ala.) represents a Birmingham-area district where President Bush won 78 percent of the vote in 2004.

But Rep. Paul Kanjorski (D-Pa.), one of the lead House negotiators on the bailout package, has much more at stake, as detailed in my latest Politico story.

As chairman of the House of Representatives’ subcommittee on capital markets, Rep. Paul Kanjorski (D-Pa.) has taken a lead role in negotiating the proposed Wall Street bailout.

He’s been in closed-door meetings with House leadership, and worked closely with Financial Services Committee Chairman Barney Frank in negotiations. He canceled all his plans in the district last weekend to focus on the crisis, and has been appearing on radio talk shows and holding tele-town halls to keep his constituents informed about the proposal.

On Thursday he drew national attention when he announced on CNBC that a bailout deal was near completion – which turned out to be a premature declaration.

But when Kanjorski returns home to his blue-collar, Northeast Pennsylvania district with a possible deal in place, he may get a hostile reaction from his constituents, who have been skeptical about offering billions of dollars to help Wall Street firms during a time of economic struggles on Main Street.

“There’s some skepticism about it. Hopefully, when the details are announced the skepticism will be erased,” said Kanjorski campaign spokesman Ed Mitchell. “The congressman has been very upfront with his constituents about it.”

Kanjorski has much at stake. He is one of the few lawmakers playing a lead role in the bailout legislation who is also dealing with a tough re-election challenge back home. Locked in a competitive race against Republican Lou Barletta, his constituents’ reaction to the plan he helped craft could determine whether he returns to Congress for a thirteenth term.